By Ogochukwu Nwaokafor
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) boss, Mr Onyishi Daniel Ogbonna, has appealed to Nigerians to stop the stigmatization of drug abusers in the country.
Mr Ogbonna, while speaking during the 2023 World Drug Day event which took place in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Auditorium, Awka, with its theme; ”People First: Stop stigma and Discrimination, Strengthen Prevention”, appealed to the public to stop stigmatizing drug abusers.
He said that between February and June, 2023, when he assumed office, Anambra had witnessed a tremendous reduction in drug abuse and illicit trafficking related activities in the state.
Ogbonna noted that within the stated period, the Command had seized a total of 833kg of different drugs, successfully rehabilitated 25 drug addicts back to society, while 25 others were currently undergoing rehabilitation at the agency’s rehabilitation centre in Onitsha. This was even as he disclosed that there was an ongoing recruitment of 5,000 personnel into the agency.
He said the Command carried out enlightenment programmes in institutions of higher learning, secondary schools and churches within the period, noting that the achievements were made possible due to moral and logistics support from the chairman of the agency, Retired Brig.-Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa.
Sequel to this, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ngozi Chuma Ude, who declared the event open, described substance abuse as a cankerworm that could reduce human beings to vegetables and urged every right thinking person to avoid it.
She further urged the youth to shun drugs as the habit, according to her, had no advantage but rather brought shame to one’s family and to society.
The Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof. Okechukwu Esimone, in a goodwill message, urged the youth, especially students, not to allow anyone to influence them negatively to take illicit drugs.
Esimone, represented by the Director, Academic and Planning, UNIZIK, Prof. Angela Ufele, noted that drug abuse impacted negatively on the workforce.
The VC said the institution currently offered a postgraduate programme to build capacity on how to tackle illicit drugs, as well as partner with NDLEA.
A Professor of Clinical Psychology in Unizik, Prof. Mike Ezenwa, who delivered a short lecture, advised NDLEA to evolve proactive measures towards tackling the menace of drug trafficking and abuse, adding that the government should invest in prevention and facilities for rehabilitation.
He urged the law enforcement agencies to make those he described as badly affected drug abusers, to submit themselves for treatment and rehabilitation, adding that some got into drug abuse through frustration, marital issues, peer group influence and family.
‘Research has it that there are people who have biological tendency to addiction than others .We need to provide a forum that will help substance users to present themselves for treatment; we don’t need to stigmatize them,’ Ezenwa pointed out.
The highlight of the event was the launch of War Against Drug Abuse (WADA), by the chairman of NDLEA, Marwa, who was represented by Samila Etta, Zonal Commander, Owerri.
The organisers also held quiz competitions for select secondary schools and undergraduates of some departments from UNIZIK.